TAIPEI (Bloomberg): A high-profile Taiwanese TV host found herself the latest to draw fire from Chinese internet users after referring to Taiwan’s Olympians as "national competitors.”
Dee Hsu -- commonly known as "Little S.” -- made the comment in an Instagram post Sunday (Aug 1) during the women’s singles badminton final between Tai Tzu-ying of Taiwan and Chen Yufei of China. The post drew an angry reaction in China, where nationalist internet users often police the comments of celebrities and companies for views that clash with the Communist Party’s official narrative that both sides are part of "one China.”
"Hsu’s Ins” -- short for Hsu’s Instagram -- quickly became one of the most-searched topics on the Twitter-like Weibo social media site Monday, garnering more than 480 million views as of Tuesday.
"Just stay in Taiwan. That way you don’t need to work so hard at being two-faced,” one online commentator said.
A representative for Hsu, who started out as a singer in the 1990s before becoming one of Taiwan’s most high-profile talk show hosts, couldn’t immediately be reached for comment Tuesday. The Instagram comment that drew outrage has since been deleted.
Most Taiwanese celebrities are careful never to reveal their stance on Taiwan’s political status for fear of being locked out of the lucrative Chinese market or angering fans at home who identify as Taiwanese rather than Chinese.
Hsu was unusual in celebrity circles for being outspoken in her support for former President Ma Ying-jeou of the China-friendly Kuomintang. Last year she was highly critical of the government’s decision to ban exports of medical masks in the early stages of the coronavirus pandemic, saying they were more urgently needed in China.
In recent years, Hsu has spent an increasing amount of time across the Taiwan Strait building her brand. Several companies that sponsor Hsu, including Unilever Plc and sex-toy maker Osuga, have sought to distance themselves from Hsu, saying they wouldn’t extend contracts with her, according to the United Daily News and other Taiwanese media.
Those outside mainland China have found themselves targeted by Chinese state media and internet users as President Xi Jinping encourages the country to challenge those seen as trying to split or weaken it. The threat of losing market share in the world’s most populous country has prompted sports leagues, airlines and other multinationals to correct perceived political slights.
Japanese actor Yuki Furukawa was similarly assailed online last week after asking his 4.5 million Weibo users whether they were watching the Olympics as Japan broke China’s 17-year gold-medal streak in mixed doubles table tennis.
"I asked at the wrong time. Should have been more careful of my words,” Furukawa said, after deleting the original post.
Taiwanese singer Jolin Tsai was also targeted Monday after congratulating several of Taiwan’s athletes at the Olympics, with angry Chinese Internet users asking why she had failed to celebrate any Chinese competitors.
Beijing views Taiwan as a part of its territory, even though it has never controlled the island. Taiwan’s democratically elected government rejects the claim, asserting it’s a de facto separate country awaiting wider international recognition. That dispute is why Taiwanese Olympians have since 1984 competed as "Chinese Taipei.”
Taiwanese athletes have so far won 10 medals in Tokyo -- two gold, four silver and four bronze -- their best-ever haul. China’s Chen won the badminton final in three sets, leaving Tai to claim the silver.
Oriental House, a Ningpo-based maker of traditional medicinal teas, said its had cancelled its contract with Hsu after her Instagram post.
"The nation’s interests are more important than anything else,” it said in a Weibo post.
"Resolutely support the one-China principle!”